New U.S. president can’t solve all major challenges, analyst says

Given the unpredictability of this presidential election, it’s still too close to call, even though Democratic nominee Barack Obama has been leading Republican nominee John McCain for the past two weeks in the Gallup Poll.

So observed political analyst Charlie Cook in the October 12 opening session of the Foodservice Distribution Conference & Expo, taking place in Pittsburgh PA. He is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading authorities on United States elections and political trends.

Regardless of who becomes president, "It is mind-boggling to think about the problems the new president and Congress will have to deal with," said Cook. Key among these: Social Security going broke; retirement savings being wiped out; funding Medicare and Medicaid; the challenge of health care reform; deficits in the national debt, which has doubled in eight years to $10 trillion; energy independence; an aging infrastructure; and the housing mortgage finance crisis.

"A first-term president, at most, can focus on only two or three big issues," said Cook. "If they have more than this, they don’t get anything done."

Beyond this, he said, "Where does the money come from for the fixes? How do you squeeze out of our current tax system enough money to solve one of the issues, let along solve all of them?"

Cook suggested that within the next five to years, the United States will junk the income tax system and go with some kind of a broad-based consumption tax or value-added business activity tax like most of the rest of the world.

"My hunch is we will be forced to move to some other system because we can’t tap enough money under our current Swiss-cheese income tax system to address these issues."

Cook concluded by saying, "This presidential election is very, very important, and we’re going to have the biggest voter turnout that we’ve had in modern history.

"It wasn’t that long ago that people said it really doesn’t matter who is president. Nobody says that anymore. People know it matters."

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